Living room ceiling leak from bathroom upstairs???


I am a novice in home repair and yet I am buying my first home which is conditional upon home inspection, during which I plan to find out about the problem which is haunting me. This house is 6 years old and was rented out so, of course, the tenants didn't bother to take care of the house. What I see is a stain from water leak on the ceiling of the living room, which seems to follow the outline of the shower stall in the bathroom right upstairs. It is about 4-5 inches long, straight line kind of, and is on only one side. Then there is another stain about a couple of feet away near the smoke detector. This is more kind of circular stain ..... there is the upstairs hallway here and the upstairs is carpeted..... I can also feel that that section of the carpet is kind of raised as if someone spilled a whole lot of water there....surrounding is ok.
So now my question to you is that do you (experts and experienced people out there) think this may be something major ??? I know that the home inspector probably will find this out...but I still want to know about the experience people have had. Can a big jug of water if spilled can show stain on downstairs ceiling like in this 2nd stain I am talking about?? Any advice on what to look for and what to ask on the day of home inspection??
Thanks for the help!!
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dissident wrote:

To properly assess this will very likely mean opening *some* part of the structure. Whether it is the ceiling or a wall adjacent to the shower or...who knows.
You simply will not know the cause(s) nor how to repair until the opening is made. Sure, you and the inspector can gaze into a crystal ball.......
Make the sale contingent upon the seller rectifying the problem and restoring all surfaces, or....low ball the offer.
Jim
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So are you saying that even the home inspector won't be able to tell me if its a good bet or my worst nightmare without drilling holes into the ceiling? We actually got the seller to negotiate because of this problem. My real estate agent thinks the work will be done in the ball park of about $5000. I am also planning to getting a bathroom guy on the day of home inspection to see what these experts think........

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wrote:

From you brief description, and admittedly not having seen the situation myself, I'd guess that whatever this problem is it can be fixed for less than $5,000 -- and likely much less.
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A hopeful home buyer asked: "So are you saying that even the home inspector won't be able to tell me if its a good bet or my worst nightmare without drilling holes into the ceiling?"
What we're saying is that it's *possible* that the home inspector won't be able to tell where the problem is. On the other hand, (s)he might go upstairs and find a gap around the shower stall where there should be grout or caulk. The exact location of leak can be hard to determine simply by visible and/or physical evidence of damage. As the good Reverend pointed out, water will sometimes follow a hidden path due to surface tension and not show up anywhere near the actual leak. No one in the group can say for certain whether or not the inspector will be able to determine the problem without some type of access to the damaged area.
So, get your contingencies lined up ahead of time, make sure the inspector has *your* best interests in mind and don't let the real estate agent be the one making the call about the repair.

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This is sage advice, to which I can only add this: make sure that the inspector is one that *you* hired and selected, not one recommended by *either* of the real estate agents involved.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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It's tough to tell where the water is coming from by looking at the ceiling. The straight line you see is where water is pooling at a drywall joint. The circular stain follows the outline of the smoke detector hole. I've seen exactly the stains you describe before. If you can eyeball the ceiling for a while and figure out where the drywall joints are, perhaps you can narrow the leak down to a 4x8 foot proximity. Or the water could be following some other path before it hits the drywall.
I had a house for a while that had a leak stain on the main floor ceiling but there was no plumbing above it. If a shower had leaked, the stain would have been far away. Looking back on it, I'm certain now that the dryer vent that exited through the roof was leaking during heavy rain. Water would run down the vent pipe, behind the dryer, and onto the ceiling below. So you never know. Could be anything.
Talk it over with your inspector. Perhaps bring in a plumber. Run all the appliances. Fill the sinks and bathtubs (all the way to the overflow). Check the attic and crawlspaces. Etc.
It's a very common thing to happen so don't let it kill your deal unless it looks like the sellers are trying to hide something.
-rev

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Thanks for all the sound advice. I will keep in mind all the points made here......... : )
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wrote:

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dissident wrote:

Or, the renters might have called the owner a dozen times about the problem. I was a renter, many years ago, and had a puddle on my dresser one morning. I called the landlord, because the water came from upstairs apartment. "I told them to keep a bucket under the sink." Landlord knew their sink had no trap, and he could well afford to repair it.

I painted the condo upstairs from mine several years ago when owner was ready to sell. Their master bath had aluminum/glass door that had no caulking around it, which let water run outside, rust out the corner bead on the wall and rot the wallboard behind the tile. Same straight like of cracked and peeling paint on our ceiling right below it.

Could be particle board beneath the carpet that got wet, expanded.

There could be a plumbing leak, a roof leak, or just careless use of the shower. If you can get into the attic, check it out. Roof (or other exterior leaks) can travel a good distance, running down rafters, pipes, wires or ducts to the "lowest" spot and puddle there. If the shower plumbing has an access panel, look in there as well. Probably a 50:50 chance a home inspector will find the origin of the problem.
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The other thing to be concerned about here is possible mold. It sounds like this has been there for a long time, in which case you could have a mold problem. And you won't know that till you open up the ceiling and take a look. Even if it;s there, the extent of it is the real issue. For example, if it's a drain leak, then it's likely to be more localized than if the leak is where the wall tile meets a tub. In that case, the wet/problem area could be much larger and involve removing and replacing tile walls. And at that point it gets to the point that while you're at it, you might very likely want to redo the whole bath. But if you're getting a $5K credit, that should go a long way towards fixing a lot of it.
I'd ask the seller if they are OK with having an inspection hole cut in the ceiling by the home inspector. They might just say yes, and you have nothing to loose by asking.
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